Brothel

Chapter 19: Monks in a Brothel

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“Isn’t that his costume for Hrede?” Iain asked as he peered out from between the legs of a tall, almost nude, mostly broken statue of a woman that adorned the top of the old brothel.

“His flamboyantly gay character that he accidentally gave a girl’s name?” Ailbhe asked.

“That’s the one,” he said.

The paladin groaned. “Tell me he’s not going in as one of his own characters?”

“I think he is. If it makes you feel any better, Hrede is actually one of his better characters.” The ‘serk rolled onto his side to look at her.

“I don’t care if he could fool Richard Simmons, it’s not going to work. Clerics can spot a lie,” she said.

“Wait, Richard who?”

“Never mind. The point is we need to decide right now is we’re going to go save him or pretend like we don’t know him,” she said. She hadn’t taken her eyes off of the door Seamus had disappeared into, though there had been no sign of him since.

Iain flipped onto his back, presumably to look at the sky. He found himself face to face with a very different sight. “Oh gods, they made this thing anatomically correct. Why would they do that?!”

“Some people have a fetish.” Ailbhe shrugged.

“I can see what STD’s she has…”

The paladin frowned. “Wait, how do you know what STDs look like on a girl?”

“Ciardhe,” he said without turning.

“Ooooh, I am SO sorry,” she said. “Maybe we should change the subject.”

“Can’t look away…” he said in a strangled voice. “Want to, but can’t.” His hands slowly started moving towards his face.

That’s when she realized he was serious. Before he could do anything rash, Ailbhe grabbed him by the belt and yanked him out from under the statue. When the crazed look in his eyes didn’t immediately die, she sat on his stomach and pinned his arms above his head. For a moment it seemed he didn’t recognize her. All he saw were boobs. The berserker transformation started to take hold, his eyes reddened and there was a warning crackle from his bones.

“Iain!” Ailbhe shrieked, forgetting she was supposed to be quiet.

The panic in her voice touched the last of his sanity and he blinked at her. “Ailbhe?” he said slowly.

“Thank god. Yes, it’s me. Look at my face and focus on what I am saying. We need to go save Seamus, so you are not going to ‘serk out and you are certainly not going to pull a Fandango. Is that clear?”

He snarled at her. Just as she started to consider letting go he struck. She was on her back before she knew what had happened, one of his hands closed tightly around her throat. Wide eyed, she watched as he leaned down.

“Don’t do that again,” he growled. Then he was off of her.

For several long moments, all she could do was lay there and cough. Eventually she rolled onto her side and willed herself to breathe normally.

Iain nudged her back. “Okay?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak before she cast a healing spell on herself. A laying on hands spell made it significantly easier to breathe. Iain pulled her to her feet and steadied her before she even thought about asking for a hand up.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Was just trying to help.”

He grunted and pulled her towards the trap door that led down into one of the brothel’s back rooms. He jumped through the opening, ignoring the mostly rotten ladder and turned back to help the paladin down the same way. Luckily the place didn’t have high ceilings. Once Ailbhe was down, he pulled her towards one of the rooms.

“What are you doing?” she hissed. “We need to get out of here and save Seamus.”

“Lie down,” he replied, moving her toward a bed.

“I’m fine, Iain,” she said, trying to pull away. He had an irony grip on her, though. “I healed myself. I don’t need to lie down, I promise.”

He shoved her down onto the bed and climbed in on top of her, arranging them into a somewhat compromising position.

“Iain, what are you doing?” she asked as he leaned down.

“Quiet,” he growled.

She was. For several moments all was quiet except their breathing, then the door slammed open and monks poured into the room. More would have pressed in except those in the lead came to a sudden, horrified stop.

“Lady Paladin, are you alright?” the monk in charge asked, his hand moving to the sword at his side.

So that was his game. Ailbhe put her arms around her berserker protectively. “Thank you for your concern, but everything is fine. Poor Iain gets like this when he’s coming down off a berserkgang. He got all worked up when he saw a child strike a cat. I just barely managed to drag him in here before he went off.” She felt Iain stiffen against her with her story of the cat and tightened her hold on him.

The monks were nodding, though, as if they were wise to the ways of cuddly ‘serks. Their leader motioned for them to go, as they were filing out, he turned back to look at Ailbhe and Iain again. “We will leave you, then, so your companion might recover. If you are ever in need of anything, Lady Paladin, please let us know; we are here to serve.” With that he turned to follow his men out the door.

They listened to the monks leave the brothel. They were quiet several minutes more before Ailbhe final spoke. “You can get off me, now.”

Iain rolled to the side, but kept an arm around her, presumably in case anyone decided to come check on them again.

“And just so I’m clear about this, are you or are you not recovering from a mini-berserkgang?” she asked.

“No,” he said, then paused. “Maybe little bit?”

“But still functional enough to talk. Mostly.”

He grunted and rolled away from her.

Now free, she sat up. “I just thought of something. We have an open invitation into the monk’s camp. I just have to think of a suitable excuse.” She glanced at the ‘serk beside her. “If you think you’re up for it.”

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Chapter 18: Enter the Monks

New to the story? Need to catch up? Catch up here: Chapters of Our Party

More than one hundred monks stood in the village square; all of them wore tabards emblazoned with a red sword across the front. The three party members weren’t the only ones in town who thought coming out to see what was going to happen would be better than just waiting around. As they watched, one of the monks stepped forward. He was a thin and amazingly reptilian looking fellow.

“People of this village,” the man intoned. “We have come in your time of need to give you aid.” He paused, as if expecting applause or cheering. When there was none, he cleared his throat and continued. “We do not ask for much in return. We wish for a bit of land on which we might build a new home for ourselves.”

Ailbhe swore under her breath.

“What is it?” Iain whispered.

She shook her head. “Gonna have to stop them.”

“Why?”

“In my rules as a paladin. I don’t have to proselytize, but I do have to stop another religion from spreading into an area of potential worshipers,” she murmured.

“And here I was thought you didn’t have any rules,” the berserker muttered. “Better think of something fast before the town leaders agree to the request.”

Grimfaced, the paladin stepped forward. “Good monk, what misfortune has befallen you and your fellows that you are force to seek refuge in a beleaguered village such as this?”

The reptilian man blinked at her. “Ah, my apologies paladin. I did not realize there was the influence of another god in this area.”

“In most cases the influence of gods is immaterial in influences of man. I ask again: what brings you here?”

A murmur rippled through the crowd as they finally understood what she was asking. The reptilian man paled but recovered quickly.

“We heard of the village’s plight and came to offer assistance,” he said, waving his arm in a grand fashion.

“People usually offer help with no strings attached,” Seamus said, a frown creasing his brow.

The lizardy monk shrugged. “It is the villager’s choice. They can take it or leave it, though I suggest they take it.”

He stared at the man that seemed to have taken over in some kind of a leadership role if only because everyone else was looking at him. The poor fellow shuffled his feet and tried to look somewhere else. When that didn’t work he cleared his throat.

“Uh, can we think about it for a bit?”

A muscle in the monk’s face twitched. “Of course,” he said. “But don’t take too long there are plenty of other areas that could use our help.”

There was more muttering from the village peoples. “You won’t be wanting our food, will you? We don’t have much of it left.”

“Of course not,” the reptilian man purred. “We’re here to give, not take.”

“What are we waiting for?” someone in the crowd asked.

“We’re waiting to see if these are the kind of people we want to have hanging around indefinitely,” the defacto town leader said.

“Why not give them a trial run?” Seamus asked. Ailbhe elbowed him in the ribs.

“Knock it off,” she hissed. It was too late, though. There were many villagers nodding their heads. The monks looked pleased. The ‘leader’ nodded and murmured something non-committal that the lizardy monk took as a yes.

“Splendid,” he hissed. “We will set up camp here and start preparing something for everyone to eat. Please, returns to your homes and get anyone left behind. We won’t have anyone going hungry tonight!”

The party left the square and headed back to the inn. Iain shot a worried glance at the paladin as they sat down at one of the tables.

“You going to be okay?” he asked.

Ailbhe shook her head. “Not unless we stop these monks.”

“But they’re trying help, aren’t they?” Seamus asked.

“No, they’re up to something,” the paladin said. “And were going to find out what it is. We just need to get someone on the inside.”

Iain made a face. “How? Seduce them?”

“Sure,” Ailbhe said. “Can’t be me, though.”

“Why not?” the bard asked.

“For one, my paladin status is already in jeopardy. It’s best if I don’t push things too far right now. For another, I’m pretty sure that head lizard isn’t interested in women.”

Iain grunted. “Can’t be me; I’d kill him.”

The two of the, looked at the bard, smirking. It took a moment for him to realize what they were thinking.

“Why are you looking at me like that? No, no, no, no, no. I won’t, I refuse,” he said, backing away from the other party members.

“You have to,” Ailbhe said. “I’ll lose everything if you don’t.”

Iain made a face, but Seamus seemed moved by what she was saying. “Okay, Ailbhe. I don’t want to, but I’ll do it for you.”

The paladin grinned at him. “I knew I could count on you. Now go upstairs and get ready; you’ll need to put on your nicest clothes.”

Nodding, the bard got up from the table. The ‘serk and the paladin watched him go. When the bard was out of earshot, Iain turned to Ailbhe. “I could have sworn he was gay. He stares at muscular guys with me.”

“Bi,” she said. “But hasn’t realized it.”

He shrugged and looked around the empty inn. “So what do we do now? Wait?”

“Actually, I was thinking of finding a nice look out point and watching,” she said.

“Where did you have in mind?”

The two of them ended up on the roof of an old, now mostly abandoned brothel, Madam Heart’s House of Tarts. They chose the space partly because of it’s proximity to the monks set up and partly because of it’s unique architectural features that made it possible to both spy on those below and escape down the back if necessary. They sat for a while before Seamus appeared. The bard wore what had to be his most flamboyant (and ugliest) outfit.

Ailbhe covered her face with her hands. “Oh god, I’m doomed.”